Only When I Laugh

1979 | United Kingdom

Set in an NHS hospital where the same three seemingly permanent patients, all congenital hypochondriacs, are forever playing a game of one-upmanship with each other, much to the irritation of house surgeon Dr Gordon Thorpe, played by the excellent Richard Wilson. 

James Bolam, in his first comedy since Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads plays Roy Figgis, a lorry driver who has an opinion on most things be it politics, social issues or medicine, all of which he is a self confessed expert on. One gets the idea that he'd rather talk than work and in the confines of a small hopsital ward he is in his element. He delights mostly in winding up the staff and patients, in particular the hapless and effete Norman Binns (Christopher Strauli), upper-class snob Archie Glover (Peter Bowles) and the ward orderly Gupte (Derrick Branche). 

The series was written by Eric Chappell who was following on from the hugely popular Rising Damp. Once again Chappell benefitted form an excellent ensemble cast who relished every line of his witty, sparkling script and the series was a huge ratings success for ITV running for four series from 1979 to 1982. C4 repeated the series in 1994 to great viewer reception and it is available, season by season or in its entirety, on DVD.

Published on January 16th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.